A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fish may keep age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at bay, according to the results of a meta-analysis. AMD is a leading cause of visual impairment.

A group led by Elaine W-T. Chong, MBBS, of the University of Melbourne, Australia, reviewed nine studies involving 88,974 individuals and 3,203 cases of AMD. One long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is particularly abundant in the outer segments of the retina; a lack of DHA may lead to AMD. DHA and another potentially beneficial long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, are found mainly in such oily fish as tuna, sardines, salmon, and trout.

Researchers found that eating fish two or more times a week and consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduced risk of both early and late AMD. People who ate two servings or more of fish per week were 37% less likely to develop early AMD. Similarly, people with the highest levels of omega-3 intake were 38% less likely to have late AMD.

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The authors of the analysis warn that the current literature does not offer enough evidence to support the routine consumption of fish and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids for AMD prevention (Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126:826-833).